If you’ve owned baby horses, or green horses, or maybe a horse that turned out to be less than ideal for it’s intended purpose, and you’re anything like me, at some point you will find yourself looking at said horse and assessing just what it’s niche might be in life. Is it destined to be the lower level packer that takes kid after kid around their first Novice? Is it a possible 1*-2*-3* horse for a good amateur or young rider? Is it a big time talent, a possible 4*-5* horse for a pro? Or maybe it would it be better in the dressage ring, or happier as a hunter or a jumper? I’ve done this with pretty much all of my horses (sometimes more than once, we know how things can change), since I’ve definitely never gone out shopping for a “made” one with a very specific purpose in mind.
With Presto things are obviously a bit different. I’m not just assessing the horse in front of me, he was BRED for a specific purpose, and he’s being raised with that specific purpose in mind. He’s been mine since conception, and he was carefully planned. I do still constantly assess him, of course… are we on track for what I want him to be? Am I teaching him the things he needs now to make his (and my) job easier later? Does it look like he will fulfill that purpose? Until he’s under saddle, there’s only so much I’ll be able to tell.
I bred him to be an amateur-friendly eventer, something I can keep and raise and ride myself. One that isn’t tough in the head, can take a joke, has enough scope to get me out of trouble, has a knack for XC, a good work ethic, and perhaps is a bit more naturally inclined to the dressage work than my current mount (Henry you are the light of my life, but good lord you have been and continue to be A PIECE OF FREAKING WORK). Presto wasn’t meant to be a top upper level horse. I wanted something that could happily bop around Prelim, maybe Intermediate as an extreme reach goal, and be a fun horse for me to raise and enjoy.
Taking him to the Future Event Horse classes (and maybe later on the Young Event Horse classes, if that’s something that seems to be a good fit for him) is kind of interesting. On one hand, the whole purpose of the FEH and YEH programs is to look for horses that they feel like have legit upper level potential. Advanced horses, 4* horses, 5* horses. Mine is not that. He wasn’t intended to be that. So will it hurt my feelings if the judges don’t think that he’s going to be that horse? Of course not. I don’t think he is either. That was never my intention when I bred him.
I was having this conversation with someone a few weeks ago and they said “aw, but Presto is nice!”. I agree. I’m not saying he isn’t nice. I’m saying he’s not an elite horse, and I’m ok with that, because he wasn’t meant to be. A horse can still be really nice without being the next superstar.
I think it’s important, especially if you’re going to own and show babies, to still be able to evaluate your horses as objectively as possible, so you’re able to choose the path that’s most suitable for them. For me, Presto has been perfect so far. He’s smart, he’s quiet, he’s easy, he moves well enough but not SO well that I won’t be able to ride him, and – from what I’ve been able to see to this point – has good enough instincts at the jumps to suit what I intended him to be. I mean, I do cry a little at the string test that says he will be 17h, but other than that, he ticks all the boxes. Will he love the sport enough to really be an eventer? Time will tell. Right now I’m very pleased with him. But is he the type of horse that the Future and Young Horse classes are really meant for? Not really, no. He is destined for life as an amateur horse.
At this point, we do the FEH classes for exposure. He could get that elsewhere, sure, but I like the program and want to support it, so that’s my choice. He gets to go to events and get miles and see some atmosphere. For horses like him (NOT top upper level prospects) that’s exactly what those classes are meant to offer. I know that going in. If he does well, great, if he doesn’t… oh well. He gets to go stand in the ring, trot around a little, and learn to behave himself – that in itself is a win at this stage.
At this point I doubt that he will be the right type of horse for the YEH classes. Mostly because I think he’ll be a big dopey horse that is slow to develop and not necessarily quick to figure out his feet, and I have no intention of rushing him through that part. But also because those programs are meant for and designed for future upper level horses, and that’s not what mine is meant to be. If, when he’s 4, we find that the YEH class (basically BN) is a good fit for where he’s at in his life, we’ll do them to get some experience. If not, maybe we’ll do the 4yo FEH class (just a basic w/t/c) instead. Or neither, if neither option is right for him at that point. It doesn’t mean the programs are bad, or that the horse is bad, it just means that those classes aren’t HIS path. It’s my responsibility as his person to be able to recognize that. If I don’t see him for what he is and what he’s meant to be, and take that into consideration, I won’t be able to make the right decisions for him.
Horses with top tier talent are few and far between. They’re awesome and exciting and fun to watch, but are they suitable for most people? Probably not. Most of us need something far more average, less sharp, easier to stay with, and easier to own. Most horses are not upper level horses… and that’s ok. If they were, there wouldn’t be much left over for us mere mortals to ride. I don’t think it’s an insult to a horse to say that it isn’t the second coming of FischerRocana – not all of us need or want that horse. If the horse suits my needs and does his job perfectly, it’s better than a 5* horse to me.